Reading Programs: What’s Beyond the Classics for Kids? — Observatory
Reading is a valuable learning resource. In previous articles we have discussed the benefits of this activity, the need to be attentive to the quality of the content read by children and young people and to keep the programs up to date. A helpful conversation would point to learning options that encourage reading at the preschool, elementary, middle, and high school levels. Cultivating the habit of reading from an early age greatly increases a student’s chances of continuing to read into their youth and adult life. With that in mind, we’ve compiled several recommendations for quality contemporary books to consider for school and home libraries.
A good start (3-7 years)
Preschool is when many children learn basics such as self-concept, body autonomy, healthy habits, and hygiene. The author Patricia Arredondo contributes to this learning with Poems for when your teeth fall out, a haiku-like, lyrically structured book about dental anatomy and hygiene. The work won an honorable mention in the Laura Méndez De Cuenca 2018 competition. It combines Arredondo’s experience as a writer with his contextual expertise, coming from a family of dentists. This title is in the catalog of the Fondo Editorial Estado de México (FOEM). It is not distributed through commercial channels, but the Secretary of Education of Guerrero (Mexico) has shared the complete work in document form via social networks.
For the English market or language teaching, my tree is an excellent choice. Author Hope Lim tells the story of an immigrant boy from South Korea who takes refuge in the shade of a tree to rest and remember his home. Also an immigrant, Lim takes this opportunity to talk about the experience of losing a place of origin and the healing that makes this new site her home. The book has received positive reviews from several newspapers and media specializing in education and the promotion of reading.
Make a path (6 to 9 years old)
This age range is conducive to fostering children’s individual reading habits. Stories of personal development through adventures or difficulties are particularly effective in creating connections between the books and the experiences of child readers. It’s time to understand that a book is a journey. The book 9 kilometers is an excellent example of these necessary narratives. This book by author Claudio Aguilera tells the story of a boy who has to travel a long distance every day to get to school. Through this story of determination and growth, Aguilera makes relevant social commentary on socio-economic inequality and the universal right to education. The book received several awards, such as the White Ravens and the Martha Brunet Awards in 2021.
The stone giant is one of the few literary offerings for these adventures and opportunities for growth to be dimensioned into a girl’s story. Author Anna Höglund introduces us to a world of knights and ogres, in which a girl’s father disappears on a mission, and she sets out to find him. The book is available in English and Spanish.
Building ideas and habits (10 to 12 years old)
Puberty is a critical transition stage for students. They need to surround themselves with books that help them contextualize their experiences and accompany them in their transition to adolescence. Luna de Gatos (Cat Moon), by author and cartoonist Jis (José Ignacio Solórzano), offers support through a story that is neither complex nor difficult to read. The book is interactive because it is also an album of stamps that will make each rereading a different day. The book deals with questions of defining identity, transitioning to a new age group and what that entails.
At this stage in life, children begin to have their own interests and seek a sense of belonging and group identity with their peers. Jazz Santos against the world tells the story of a girl who brings together a group of classmates to create a football team. The book belongs to a series called the Dream Team, in which the author, Priscilla Mante, explores the challenges of adolescents in discovering and pursuing the activities that form and excite them. The series also includes the title: Charligh Green versus the Spotlight.
Through the universe of speech (ages 12 and up)
By the age of 12, if children have become accustomed to reading, they begin to gravitate toward more complex stories with richer narratives, structures, and a wider range of words and plots. The books we put in their hands during this time will have a significant impact; the children will pursue a life of adolescent and adult in which reading remains a constant.
Understanding how society works is crucial for children of this age. El niño que vivía en las estrellas (The Boy Who Lived in the Stars) makes us participate in the difficulties of a child who claims to be from another planet. The way the adults around him handle his case is an integral part of this story. This work by author Jordi Sierra i Fabra received the National Prize for Literature from the Ministry of Culture in 2007 and, in 2013, the SM Ibero-American Prize for Literature for Children and Adolescents. Its sales figures exceed 12 million copies.
The teaching of history, diverse cultural heritages and languages are academic areas that can be nurtured by the books that parents and teachers choose for their libraries. soul lanterns is one of those works that serves all three purposes. Published only in English, it tells the story of three children from Hiroshima in the 1970s who carried out a school project on the consequences of the atomic bomb in their city. The anecdotes collected by the protagonists are a window not only on a high-caliber historical event but on the human experiences and emotions linked to these 27 years after.
Like the works mentioned above, there are hundreds of other books by young authors with a solid literary base to support the learning of children and young people in the classroom and at home. It is only a question of looking for media which give a place to contemporary authors. Do you think that including these works in school curricula would be a step forward in teaching and encouraging reading? Do you prefer the classics? Would you like a balance between the two types? Let us know in the comments.
Translation by Daniel Wetta